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Nicolas Philibert

School according to Nicolas


- After earlier documentaries about the theatrical exploits the French director is back with a new documentary about a small school

Nicolas Philibert

Etre et Avoir (To Be and To Have) by Nicolas Philibert is a film about a school. But not about packed and noisy classes, or teachers dashing from one lesson to the next. After earlier documentaries about the theatrical exploits of a group of elderly psychiatric hospital - La moindre des choses and the students of a stage school - Qui sait?, Philibert is back with a new documentary about a small school in the Auvergne where one teacher, Georges Lopez is responsible for all the students, from the youngest to the oldest. Lopez, the son of Spanish immigrants, has been teaching for 35 years, 20 of which in the school portrayed in this film, teaching his pupils to read, write but above all, to grow in to responsible adults.
The film was a huge hit in France and took over Euros1.1million in eight weeks on general release. Etre et Avoir is about to hit Italy and we met with the director who described the adventure of making this documentary.

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Is this school anything like the ones you attended as a child ?
“Not in the least. I lived in the city and have bad memories of my school days. I was unhappy, nervous, and unable to adapt to the routine of school to such a degree that my parents moved me around every year. It was thanks to this film that I finally managed to reconcile myself with that institution. “

Where did you get the idea for this film?

“I am not a director who’s always looking for the right story, I leave things to mature and see what the result is. I wanted to make a film about school, from learning about literature to country life, and wanted to make it long before I came across that particular type of school. The search was a difficult one because I wanted to express the very essence of teaching and learning and there are very few schools of this kind around in France. Slightly over 7000. “

How did the project develop? Did you manage to capture the special moments that pass between a teacher and his pupil or was it all prepared beforehand?

“You and your camera have to be accepted by your subjects, especially with a film such as this where the protagonists are children I managed to shoot the first day, but not before I presented my equipment as trivia. It has to be said that you never know what can happen during the making of a film like this. The tears that Nathalie cries when she talks to the teacher after school is out were not planned for. During the editing process I wondered whether or not to cut that scenes. But if you portray a school of that type, it follows that you must also portray the more private aspects of these people’s lives.“

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